Monthly Archives: March 2009

Jim Pickard

The Times carried the front page story today that Cherie Blair has been hired by two local authority funds (North Yorkshire and Merseyside) to seek compensation from the fall in the RBS share price. Read more

Jim Pickard

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Jim Pickard

Amid the ongoing saga about will-he-won’t-he apologise it’s easy to forget what exactly Gordon Brown has been blamed for.

Here is a reminder: despite numerous warning signs, the government failed to address the housing bubble, easy credit or the irresponsible growth of incomprehensible products in capital markets. Read more

Jim Pickard

Last autumn we were reminded again and again that the economic picture wasn’t totally bleak – because there were still plenty of job vacancies. The figure of 600,000 was touted in the Commons on several occasions in October – including Prime Minister’s Questions.

How come ministers are no longer using this argument? Figures from the ONS show that in January there were only 420,000 vacancies left. Since then the number is likely to have shrivelled further.

Jim Pickard

This is a valid question. The rescue of the Scottish banks has cost British taxpayers an estimated £2,000 per household. If Scotland was independent, the figure could have been closer to £13,000. How would it have coped? Read more

Jim Pickard

Someone has passed on this montage which seems to work as an apt metaphor for the banking crisis. Seems particularly relevant when considering the “rescue” of HBOS by Lloyds. To see the full sequence you need to click on this tarp_visualization

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Jim Pickard

Derek Simpson may have only got 38 per cent of votes in the Unite/Amicus leadership election but he is home and dry. (I’ve just been passed the results by one source and haven’t heard official confirmation yet).

Interestingly, the most left-wing candidate, Jerry Hicks, came a respectable second with 25 per cent. Read more

Jim Pickard

This won’t be a view shared by those who think we’re in for a short, sharp recession.

But Robert Waller, an authority* on British politics, reckons we are in for a new era of ping-pong politics where parties are ditched after each term in office. Read more

Jim Pickard

Very interesting story in this morning’s Times about Essex County Council looking to outsource some or all of its services to the private sector. The contract could be up to £5.4bn and – if the council goes ahead – would be the biggest of its type.

What the piece doesn’t mention is that the council has just axed BT Group from providing its I.T. services and taken provision back in-house.

BT was removed two months ago and the two sides are now in legal negotiations over an appropriate termination fee. Read more

We all know it sounded wrong when Gordon Brown blurted out “Barack” in the Oval Office. But this wasn’t just a matter of straying from the West Wing script. Brown was officially in breach of protocol.

The only publication worth consulting on this terribly important matter is the Hand-book of Official and Social Etiquette and Public Ceremonials at Washington, a must-read for visiting dignitaries hoping to build special relationships. Read more

Jim Pickard

Many of the best lines at today’s noon exchange were from William Hague, standing in for David Cameron as Tory leader.

The best were digs at Harriet Harman’s alleged leadership ambitions…and even had some cabinet members laughing. Read more

Jim Pickard

Barely a ripple. Perhaps it was the late release of the report into “Nannygate” – it didn’t emerge until after 6pm last night. Or it was a busy day. But newspapers could barely find the room to explain what the Commons’ authorities ruled over the Spelman affair. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Tories are making hay from the news that Sir Fred Goodwin was on a “high level” panel advising the government on financial issues as recently as late January.

Newcastle paper The Journal spotted that Sir Fred was on Alistair Darling’s group of senior representatives from the financial world until January 28. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Treasury select committee has just published a letter from RBS setting out how the bank determined Sir Fred’s pension payout. It transpires that – had he been dismissed rather than given early retirement – he would have received £287,000 a year less (unless he waited a decade to draw it down). Read more

The heaviest snow to hit the Washington area for years has disrupted Gordon Brown’s hopes for a statesmanlike press conference with Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden, which is now better suited to building snowmen.

The Brown and Obama camp are trying to arrange a separate “press opportunity” in the Oval Office, which – as one British official put it – will leave the prime minister without “flags and podiums” when he appears on the television news. Read more

His allies admit it will have to happen. Ministers just think he should just get on with it. The Tories, meanwhile, are licking their lips at the prospect of Gordon Brown stubbornly refusing to give way. The longer he holds out, they say, the more painful the eventual capitulation will be. The pressure is building. At some point, Brown may be forced to break the unspoken golden rule of his political career and say sorry.

It is unlikely to be straightforward. When it comes he will probably admit that mistakes were made, or some suitably unspecific formulation. But it will be the gesture of “humility” that even the Alistair Darling now says is required. In his interview with the Daily Telegraph, the chancellor takes the significant step of acknowledging that everyone — even his predecessor — must accept some responsibility for what went wrong. Blaming the US, subprime bankers, global forces or shirt-sleeved speculators will no longer wash with the public. Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s been interesting following Digby Jones since he left the department of business at the end of last year. Read more

We’re all looking forward to Gordon Brown’s lecture speech to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday. This is his big chance to tell America’s lawmakers that they were responsible for the global financial crisis. His regularly repeated thesis, after all, is that the economic catastrophe started in the US (because of lax national regulation) and infected other economies (because of lax global regulation). He’ll surely take this opportunity to tell Congress how it is, to their face – won’t he? Read more

The Foreign Office finances are dire. Its small budget has been hit hard by the collapse in sterling. The consequences are slowly beginning to emerge. As we reported today, Britain is set to withdraw the vast majority of the police seconded to EU reconstruction missions around the world. That will put the UK’s contribution to civilian operations in hotspots like Afghanistan, Georgia, Palestine on a par with Slovakia’s. So much for being a big player in Europe.

These kind of reconstruction and conflict prevention missions were a top UK priority. Gordon Brown even pledged last year to muster a 1,000 strong standing force of civilian volunteers. That now seems like a pipedream: the UK can no longer even afford its existing deployment of 100 police. Read more